Bream with garlic, saffron and preserved lemons

“As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender.Niamh Shields

I totally agree. Sometimes, cooking feels like meditation, all the stars aligned. I remember the first time I felt like this. Or perhaps the first time I consciously noticed feeling like this. It was over a big pot of ragu for lasagne. Everything felt just right: calm, complete, whole, balanced. I was happy and connected. And the dish turned out just delicious.

It’s similar with flavours, but the feeling is stronger and shorter. Like a dart of pleasure, a stronger connection, but one that lasts a shorter time. Some combinations just hit the right note. Like a culinary, gustatory G-spot. They’re simply perfect. Such as the flavours in Claudia Roden’s chicken tagine with lemon and olives, which were a springboard for this dish. I thought how well its flavours of lemon, saffron and herbs would go with fish. And then I made it and they did go together  so well.

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Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets (the recipe)

Here is the recipe for Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets that I promised earlier.

I love these delicious fish cakes, or fish cutlets. This is the best way to use the humble tinned tuna, I promise! Serve them as snacks, or perhaps in sandwiches. I had them with thin slices of raw red onion, and it worked just great, though I must admit I usually really don’t like raw onion.

UPDATE 22 May 2010: I made the fish cakes with coriander, instead of curry leaves, and lemon instead of lime juice. I also add about a tbsp of dessicated coconut. It worked great!

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Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

 

SOURCE:  Jasmine

PREPARATION TIME: about 15 min

COOKING TIME: 30 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 (makes about 14 – 15 6 cm wide fishcakes) 

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium potatoes, cubed

2 tins of tuna

½ medium red onion, chopped finely

2 – 3 green chillies, chopped finely, deseeded if you wish

A few springs of curry leaves, shredded (I used 4, but I like curry leaves a lot)

½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground (or coarsely ground cumin and black pepper mixture)

½ tsp or more Sri Lankan chili powder

2 tbsp breadcrumbs, plus extra for coating

Lime juice to taste (start with ½ lime, and add more if you want)

Salt

2 medium eggs, beaten (or one large, with a little bit of water stirred in)

Oil for deep frying

  

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METHOD:

1.      Boil the potatoes until soft. When they’re done, drain the potatoes and leave to cool in the sieve. You want the water from the potatoes to evaporate, so do leave them for long enough.

2.      In the meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients except for the salt and lime juice, and mix them in a bowl. When the potatoes have cooled down, mash them and add to the mixture in the bowl. Add the lime juice and salt to taste.

3.      Time to shape the cutlets! Take about a golf-ball sized amount of mixture and roll it into a ball. Next, flatten the ball, dip into the egg, and then into bread crumbs. Do all the cutlets in this way.

4.      Pour oil into a deep pan, or a wok (which is what I used, and what Jasmine uses), and put on medium high. You’ll need enough oil for deep frying, a few centimeters, I’d say. The oil is hot enough when it sizzles when you insert a wooden spoon inside.

5.      Fry the cutlets for a few min on each side, until they’re heated through and the coating is cooked. Enjoy!

 

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More Sri Lankan Food at Maninas:

 The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut (V)

Sri Lankan coconut dhal (V)

Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry (V)

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      This is my entry for this week’s WHB, hosted by Susan from

      The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Broccoli and basil pesto with capers, red chilli & anchovies pasta

Some of my most creative creations come from – clearing out the fridge! When there’s not much in it, and I’m forced to get the best out of what we’ve got. On this occasion, I came up with a delicious pesto of basil and pine nuts with capers, red chilli and anchovies! You’ll notice there’s no cheese in this pesto – we certainly didn’t miss it. The sauce was tossed with steamed broccoli and pasta. I think it would have worked really well with braised kale or cavolo nero, too.

It was loosely inspired by Italian anchovy and caper combination, and by our great love of pesto!

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This is a pretty flexible recipe, and I’m giving he quantities more as guidelines than gospel! If you like it nuttier and creamier, add more pine nuts. If you want it herbier, more basil. The consistency will depend on how much olive oil you put in, etc. You can also omit the chilli if you wish, but I like the little extra kick.

This sauce takes no time to make, and it’s a fantastic weekly dinner. WHB 4 years.jpg

This week I’m hosting WHB, and this is my entry: broccoli and basil pesto with capers and anchovies pasta!

 

 

 

.This is the photo from the current header, btw:

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broccoli and basil pesto with capers

 and anchovies pasta!

 

SOURCE:  Own recipe

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: 10 – 15 min (depending on pasta)

CUISINE: Italian-inspired

SERVES: 2

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the pesto:

A good handful of basil

a pinch of coarse sea salt

2 – 3 tbsp pine nuts

1 small garlic clove (optional)

1 small red chilli

1 tbsp capers

1 – 2 anchovies

extra virgin olive oil

For the pasta:

1/2 head of large broccoli (or more if you really like broccoli!)

enough pasta for two

 

METHOD:

1. Boil a large pot of water and add pasta. I put a Chinese steamer on top of the same pot and the broccoli in it, but you can cook the broccoli as you prefer – in another pot, in the microwave, etc.

2. While the pasta and the broccoli is cooking, I make my pesto. Toast the pine nuts in a medium hot pan until they start getting a little oily and golden, tossing them in the pan, or stirring. Watch them, they burn easily. When they’re done, take them out of the pan and put them in a bowl. This is important, they’ll burn if you leave them in the pan while you get a start with the basil.

3. Put the salt and the basil in your pestle and mortar if you’re using one (the coarse salt helps crush the basil, but it’s not essential, of course). Make a paste out of the basil, and then add the other ingredients, one by one. Add the capers and the anchovies towards the end, so you can adjust quantities, and add more if you wish. Olive oil comes last – add as much as you want to achieve a desired consistency.

4. Toss the pasta with the pesto, and then mix in the broccoli. Enjoy!

Digg This

For the winter blues: Sri Lankan coconut dhal

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Hello! How are you, how’s the world at your end? Here in the UK, we’re cocooned in layers of snow of varying thickness, depending on where you are. When I was coming home tonight, around 6.30 pm, I felt this thick layer of snow under my feet is starting to freeze. I wonder what we’ll wake up to tomorrow. As idyllic as it all looks, us Mediterranean types are not faring to well in these conditions. All I want to do is hibernate until the sun shines back on us again. But though I refuse to believe it, the life goes on. There are jobs to do, people to see, dinners to cook… Yes… Dinners… Here’s what kept me awake and re-energised me this evening. Remember that delicious Sri Lankan dhal I was telling you about earlier? Here’s the recipe. Without the photos for now, until my camera awakes from its winter sleep. (I meant to take photos this evening, but my camera failed me.)

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This dhal is a serious contender for the title of my favourite dhal, so far held by the seductive Bengali Red Dal. It has a rich gutsy flavour of red lentils cooked with onion, garlic, chillies, and cumin and black pepper, imbued with the heady aroma of curry leaves, and with a squeeze of lime to heighten your senses. I normally prefer to eat my dhal on the same day I make it, but this one I find improves with time. That is if you can stay away from it and leave some for tomorrow. I’m proud to day that this time I managed to do just that. Not even I can eat this much dhal at one sitting!

Let not the long list of ingredients intimidate you. This dhal is really very easy to make, and you can leave it to look after itself while you’re doing something else. Like making Sri Lankan coconut rotis, for example. Yes, that’s a good thing to do. (Recipe coming soon.) 

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Sri Lankan coconut dhal

 

SOURCEJasmine’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: under 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 45 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of red lentils

1/4 red (medium to large) onions, or 2 shallots

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

3 green chillies, roughly chopped

a handful of fresh curry leaves, shredded

1/3 tsp turmeric

2/3 tsp roughly ground cumin and black pepper mixture

1 scant tsp of fenugreek seeds

1/5 – 1/4 can of coconut milk

Juice of 1/2 lime, or more to taste

3 – 4 dried red chillies

salt to taste

a handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

1 tbsp tempering spices (mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

1 1/2 tbsp fried onions (or 3 – 4 shallots, shredded and then fried as below)

 

METHOD:

Place the lentils in about 2 – 3 cups of water. Then chop the chillies, onions, garlic, shred the curry leaves and add them to the lentils, together with turmeric, fenugreek and the cumin and black pepper mixture. Boil together until the lentils turn soft.

When the lentils are soft, add the coconut milk and stir through.

Before you’re ready to eat, prepare the tadka or tempering for the dhal. I usually don’t have fried onions at hand, so this is what I do. I heat the oil and then add the chillies and the curry leaves to it. when the curry leaves are starting to turn crisp, I pop in the onions/shallots, and cook them until they’re almost copper brown. Then add a few more curry leaves (if you want, which I invariably do), and the tempering spices. Stir for 10 s or until they release their fragrance. Now pop the contents of the pan into the lentil mixture, reserving perhaps some for the garnish. Stir, put the lid back on, and leave it for a minute or two for the flavours to mingle and make friends.

Don’t forget the lime. I sometimes add it before adding the tadka to the lentils, and sometimes after the tadka. Either way, don’t leave it out. It really does make all the difference.

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More dhals from this blog:

Bengali Red Dhal

Minty dhal (2 versions of  recipe)

 

Also:

More recipes with beans and lentils

More Sri Lankan recipes

 

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We’re at the 8th helping of My Legume Love Affair hosted and organised by the talented Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. This is my entry for the event.  

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